Monday, March 26, 2018

Scanxiety

Has it really been ten-ish months since I posted? Oh well. Hi, nice to see you again.

I saw my oncologist today, after one of the longest weeks of my life. Last Tuesday, I had a bone scan. It's a fancy imaging procedure where the technician injects a radioactive tracer into you and then does a whole body scan a few hours later to look for areas of concern...in my case, for metastasis.

I've had a bad hip for years. Five years ago this May, I had surgery to repair a torn labrum. It's a ring of cartilage in the hip joint that helps protect it. I tore mine back in the days when I was able to run. The tear wasn't repairable though, so the surgeon just cleaned it up and smoothed things out so I could move more easily. It helped, but I've continued to have difficulty with it, and I've had several more cortisone injections since the surgery. They usually help for a few months before it wears off. No biggie...it's a pain in the ass (literally, even--the pain can radiate), but I can deal with it.

But now...well, now I've had cancer. That changes everything. The fear of recurrence is real, and it is strong. It's bad enough when everything is normal. I have cancer dreams regularly. I sing Finn to sleep and at least a couple of nights a week I find myself crying, praying I'll be able to sing to him when he's five, when he's eight, when he's seventeen and yelling at me to get out of his room for crying out loud!

I had my quarterly follow up with my oncologist in mid-March. As usual, he answered my questions with remarkable patience and a reassuring cache of journal articles and study results to back him up. He pulled up the guidelines from somebody or other about when scans like an MRI or a PET is indicated, and he explained why I do not need them, despite what many doctors in other institutions may order. He also mentioned the risk of unnecessary radiation and the cost-benefit analysis. Okay. I'm good with that. No scans.

Then we talked about my neuropathy, which has improved significantly in recent months, to the point where I stopped taking Gabapentin and found my brain was much, much happier. I can focus better! I can see my entire case load in a week! I feel far more like myself again! I have noticed some of the neuropathy symptoms creeping back in, especially in my feet, but it definitely is not worth the brain fog. I also mentioned that my hip pain is a little worse and said I suspected the Gabapentin had been helping it as well.

The doctor asked how long I'd been having hip pain. This go-around, it's been since the fall. It's been getting worse again, and I'm starting to notice I limp more often. He said that even though he'd just talked about how some scans are unnecessary, there is a low threshold for when he will order them. My hip pain reached that threshold. He explained what the bone scan was and said he wanted to see me back once I had the scan--he always likes to see patients in person for test results.

I scheduled the scan for the following Tuesday. I went in at 10am, got an injection in my arm, laid on the exam bed while a giant X-ray machine of some sort moved around me and took pictures of my hips. I could watch them on a computer screen off to the side. It was cool to watch the scans, but every time something showed up brighter white, I said another prayer.

That part was done within half an hour, but I had to return at 1:30 for the second half of the scan, once my body had time to absorb the tracker. It was snowing by then, and schools were closing early due to the impending snow. I got back to school, saw one more client before the school closed, and then met a coworker for lunch to pass the time until I had to be back at the hospital.

The second part of the scan looked at my entire body. The machine started above my head, so close to my face it nearly touched my nose. I couldn't watch the screen this time. Instead, I alternated praying that it wasn't cancer and doing a yogic body scan to keep my mind from racing too much.

It took longer, and when it was done, I couldn't help but ask the tech what they found, even though I know they can't answer that question. He said he didn't know but the radiologist would read it and the results would be ready in 2-5 business days. The front desk gave me a code to sign into the online portal to retrieve my results.

What shocked me the most was how quickly and how intensely the anxiety set in. When I had talked to my family the Monday before to let them know I was going to have the scan, I told them I was confident it was the same pain I'd experienced pre-cancer and that it was just an extra precaution now because of my history. I believed it, too...mostly.

But Tuesday morning, the day of the scan, I woke with a weight on my chest. It did not go away, and in fact, it got heavier as the days passed. I broke down crying to Kevin several times during the week. Thursday night, I told Kevin about the portal code and asked what he thought I should do. I expected him to say to wait until we saw the oncologist on Monday. He didn't. He said why wait? See if it's there. I waited until we'd completed our evening chores before I went and got the computer to log in. As I cleared the table and cleaned up Finn's toys, my heart was racing so fast I felt like I'd escaped a wild rabid animal chasing me for several miles. My hands were shaking so hard I had difficult grasping objects. Finally, I sat down and entered my information. My most recent procedure, the bone scan, was at the top of the list. I looked at Kevin, took a deep breath, and clicked the link. "Results are not available at this time. Most results take 4-5 business days. Results will not be released until reviewed by ordering physician." Oh. I closed the computer and took several more breaths. Kevin and I hugged, I wiped away my tears, and then I got up and took half an Ativan and went to bed.

For the rest of the week, we kept busy--an intentional move on my part. Saturday Kevin, Finn, and I went into Baltimore for the March for Our Lives. I had to keep yelling at my Anxiety Monster to stop reminding me that I could be marching with a cancer-eaten hip and that maybe this would be the last march of my life. My Anxiety Monster can be a real asshole. We headed out of town that evening to visit a dear friend who lives a couple of hours away and is dealing with her own health issues right now. We commiserated over vodka and grape juice (now known as the Damet Janet, and damn, it is good) and talked about everything from Tom Petty to people who Just Don't Get It to our kids to the ridiculousness of our government.

Sunday night, I was playing on Facebook and saw a post from someone about a Line A Day journal she has been writing in since her children were very small. She talked about how she loved looking back at previous entries and reliving memories. I decided I wanted one and jumped on Amazon to find it. All the ones I could find were five year journals. I broke down again. The Anxiety Monster reminded me that if my cancer had returned, if I was Stage IV, I almost certainly wouldn't be around to finish the journal. I'd be lucky to make it two years. I vented in a cancer support group I'm in, about the fear and how it has turned me into a basket case. I ordered the journal anyway, and then I went to bed, asking Kevin to read to me for a bit first to help calm my brain. He did (we're about halfway through reading Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows...it's taken us several years to get through the series), but my mind was still racing. Lately, we've been listening to a yoga nidra podcast when we go to sleep, as it usually helps both of us fall asleep faster and sleep better. I also really love incorporating mindfulness into my daily routine. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep focused on the podcast, so I opted for a book that would keep my brain more engaged until sleep, so that I couldn't dwell in the fear. It worked, and I actually slept pretty well.

Today dragged on for what felt like forever. I kept myself occupied, seeing clients back to back--literally returning one to class and getting another all day. Finally, it was 1:10 and time to pack up...and I got a call from the guidance counselor asking me to stop by to talk about a client. That turned into a meeting with the principal of the school as well, and by the time I was finished, it was 1:31, and my 20 minute buffer had disappeared. I walked as fast as I could back to my office--no running in the halls, you know--grabbed my stuff, shut down my computer, and raced back out of the school--I did run that time because no kids were in that area of the building. Traffic was worse than usual. I got to the oncology center at 2:02 for a 2pm appointment. There were eight patients ahead of me waiting to check in. I have never seen it that crowded. Kevin met me at the hospital, having left work early as well. I got checked in and we walked back to the waiting area. We were called back within a couple of minutes, and the medical assistant started to check my vitals. I warned her that my blood pressure was going to be high. I was right. My pulse was high also. We only had to wait a couple of minutes, but even in just that short time, I couldn't keep my tears away. The oncologist came in and asked how I was doing. I told him I was feeling pretty anxious, and as he reached his hand out to shake mine, he said, "Well, I think I can do something about that in about six seconds." I breathed. "Your bone scan was clear. There is no evidence of metastatic disease."

I breathed again. The weight in my chest disappeared.

We talked more about the results and what they did see in the scans (degeneration in my right hip joint, some in my left knee and ankle--never had problems in those joints, so who knows, and some in my shoulders). No cause for alarm.

We talked about the relief I felt, and he mentioned how he remembered me using the term scanxiety before and how he liked it. I gave credit to my cancer support groups, since that's where I'd first heard it. I told him I was grateful he wasn't one of the doctors who orders a lot of scans. I didn't think I'd be able to handle the stress of it.

And then I went to get Finn from my in-laws, hugged him extra hard, and came home. I made dinner, played with Finn, read books, sang to him (yes, my eyes leaked), and then did some of my notes for work. It was life as usual. It's a relief to be back.

Also, Finn said 'pork' at dinner, and it was the most clear pronunciation of the f-word that I think I have ever heard. Later, when he saw his reflection in the chrome of the bathtub stopper, he said 'who's that?' over and over, and it sounded like he was saying 'oh shit.' I love that boy so hard.

Also also, I wore my hair in a ponytail all day on Monday, for the first time in more than two years. I shaved my head two years ago on Sunday. Not all of it wants to stay in the ponytail yet, but it's close enough.

The Titmonster can go suck a rotten egg. I love my life.

I couldn't pick a favorite.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Eddie From Ohio

This is a long overdue post. Back in January, Kevin and I left Finn at his grandparents' house for his first ever sleepover so we could see my favorite band, Eddie From Ohio. This year's concert had extra special meaning for me.

The band is an alternative folky band. Their shows are energetic, engaging, and fun. They have amazing voices. I've been a fan since I first heard them in 2000, and I have lost count of the number of times I've seen them play. The past few years, Kevin and I have gone to see them during their annual show at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. It's a three-night performance held either on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend or Presidents' Day weekend. This year, it was MLK weekend, and we got tickets for Friday night.

When I was pregnant with Finn, I sang one of their songs, Hey Little Man, to him frequently. Since he was born, we've sung it to him every single day. We were amazed when he was first born that simply starting to sing that song would calm him almost instantly.  Most nights, as we put Finn to bed, he begins to settle and is still by the time we get to the end of the song.

I was both excited and nervous this time. I have met the band members several times, as they usually sign autographs and CDs after the show. This time, however, I had decided I would talk to Julie Murphy Wells, who has been an inspiration for years, but much more profoundly in the past year.

Julie is a breast cancer survivor, too. She was diagnosed in 2005. I remember reading the email the band sent out explaining why they'd be reducing the number of shows they were playing. She set up an email account for those who wanted to send her well-wishes. It was her sense of humor that stayed with me, and why she was one of the people I looked to when figuring out how to navigate this world I'd been unwillingly dropped into. Her email address was myleftboob at hotmail dot com. Come on. How awesome is that? I didn't follow her story too closely as it was happening; I was 25 and never considered I'd be diagnosed with cancer ten years later. I remember seeing her play shows in the midst of treatment. I remember being amazed that she was able to do it.

I think it's pretty easy to see that Kevin and I both have relied on humor to get us through this journey. I mean, the blog is called Janet Versus the Titmonster. It's a big part of both of our personalities to deal with challenges by reframing and laughing, but I definitely had a strong example of how to do this when death is on the line through Julie Murphy Wells.

I'd tried to write an email to her a couple of times, and I always felt silly, like I was seriously fangirling. I mean, I was; besides her voice being completely amazing, she really has been someone whose story I keep looking to as I figure out how to navigate being a mom with cancer.

So after the show (maybe my favorite one ever!), Kevin and I waited in line to talk to the band. Julie was at the near end of the table. My voice betraying my nerves, I told her I wanted to thank her. I briefly shared my story and told her how inspiring she has been for me. I fangirled about the music, how much I've always loved it, but mostly how seeing and remembering so clearly how she accepted her diagnosis and how she didn't shy away from it or try to hide it but instead faced it with humor and grace gave me the courage to do the same.

Y'all, she's as nice and genuine as she appears. We hugged, we took a couple of pictures, and she asked me to share them with her. (Oops. I am going to do that before I post this. Can I blame chemo brain for this, too?) (Update: Did this. She replied. She's awesome.)

Anyway, here are some pictures.
















Sunday, May 28, 2017

No Mo' Chemo

On Thursday, May 25, 2017, at 8:27 pm, I took three pills. They were my last dose of chemo, hopefully forever.

Earlier that day, I texted Kevin and asked him who was picking up the celebratory ice cream cake. He said he would, so I went home after getting Finn and started preparing a fancy dinner, steak au poivre with cauliflower au gratin and green beans (it wasn't difficult, thanks to Home Chef!).

We waited for cake until Finn was asleep, because we're selfish and didn't want to share it was already late, and I had a beer to go along with the cake. Of course I used my Iocaine Powder pint glass. My chemo doesn't dissolve instantly in liquid, but it's still a poison. Kevin told me the Baskin Robbins staff was a bit taken aback when they asked what he wanted the cake to say. He had to assure them the cake was a good thing (it was all ice cream: mint chocolate chip and chocolate chip. How could it not be a good thing?).

The last time I finished chemo, last August, was less of a relief. It's when my anxiety really kicked in, as it was the end of active treatment for a month or more. I've been looking forward to the end of this one. I had a lot of side effects from the capecitabine, enough that my oncologist reduced my dose after the fourth cycle. Indigestion, nearly constant nausea, and hand and foot syndrome (erythrodysesthesia) were the biggest side effects for me. The hand and foot syndrome was the one that gave me the most trouble, to the point where I couldn't walk by day ten or so of each cycle. Once I started the lower dose, it improved significantly. My hands and feet are still blistery, cracked, and peeling, but the associated pain is much more tolerable. I hardly had any nausea for the last two cycles either, and I'm almost back to being able to eat normally again.

I'm glad to be done. I'm still a little uneasy about it though. I wonder when...if...the fear of recurrence will begin to ease. I heard about another trial I may be eligible for that is immunology based. I've requested more information about it and will learn more at my next oncology appointment in a few weeks.

Oh, that's another thing. I don't have to go to the hospital for blood work every three weeks and then back the next day to see my oncologist. I deleted my phone alarms to remind me it's "Chemo Time". I didn't have to wake up early this weekend to eat and then wait half an hour to take the pills. I haven't been nauseous in three days. I won't get another box from the specialty pharmacy with the pills in biohazard bags. I won't have anymore chemo co-pays. Soon, my skin will begin to heal and I won't have to sleep in lotion gloves and socks. Maybe Kevin will stop saying "Pizza Time" in the creepy voice from the Little Caesar's commercial (see Chemo Time link above). Maybe.

I waited until Kevin had proofread for me to mention that hopefully he won't remember that once my counts recover I *could* potentially maybe-if-I-had-to start scooping the stupid cat boxes again. Don't tell him.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Loss

Fuck.
I'm not even going to apologize for the language. Fuck cancer. Fuck fuck fuck.
I'm in a Facebook group for women who were diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. It's been a really helpful, really supportive group.
A few minutes ago, I learned a member of the group died yesterday. I didn't know her personally, just from the group, from reading her posts and us commenting on the same posts. She had triple negative breast cancer.
She finished treatment recently. She had a lot of pain. She saw her doctors. They found more cancer. Her cancer had metastasized, spread to her bones. Within six weeks, she was gone.
I'm sitting at my desk, a pile of overdue paperwork waiting on me, a schedule of sessions that's gone out the window now, because I'm in no condition to see clients right now. I'm sitting at my desk, and I'm sobbing.
I'm crying for her family, for her small children, her husband, her parents and siblings and friends, and all of the people who knew her joy and her wisdom personally and through the magic of the internet.
I'm crying in terror and hatred of this evil beast called cancer, which has taken so many people I love, which threatens all of us, which threatens me.
I'm crying for me. I'm crying because I cannot imagine the pain her family is going through, and yet I imagine it every day. I'm crying because I know the fear she must have felt when she received the news, because it's the fear that lives in my gut and springs up when I wake in the middle of the night and when I walk into my oncologist's office for yet another appointment and when I hold Finn close and tell him I will love him always and forever until the end days. I am crying because I am terrified that her fate could be my fate, and damitall, I want to live!  I need to live.
Her story is not the same as mine. I know that. Her situation is not the same as mine. I know that. I am doing everything I can do to reduce the chances my cancer will come back. I know that. But my cancer has a 50% chance of recurring in the first two years. I know that. I am taking the oral chemo, which showed a reduction in recurrence of around 15% for triple negative breast cancer. I know that, too.  

And then my office phone range because the parent for my forgotten family session arrived, and I had to quick pull myself together, wash my face, and then walk through the school with my bright red and puffy face.
The distraction was helpful though. Who knows how long it'd have taken me to calm down and recover if I hadn't been forced to in a hurry?
But cancer still sucks. Even worse than the fear of chemo harming the baby (although I knew the studies showed it was safe), even worse than the side effects of treatment: the hair loss, the pain, the exhaustion, the stomach issues, even worse than having to stop working before I was ready, even worse than the financial cost, even worse than the chemo brain, worse than all of that is the constant--and rational--fear that the cancer could return. And if the cancer returns, it could mean death. I'm just not ready for that. I don't intend to be ready for that for another fifty years or so. It's not that I'm scared of death, not at all. I'm scared of not living. What a place to be trapped.


I'm not proofreading. Excuse any errors you find.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Musings

Spring. Easter. Heartache. Change. Hope.

Thursday will mark two years since we lost Pantalaimon. I found out on Good Friday two years ago that I was probably going to miscarry, that the baby we had hoped for and tried for since the previous summer appeared to have stopped growing and did not have a heartbeat. On April 20, I had a D&C, as my body had not yet figured out that I was no longer pregnant. 

Last Eastertime, I shaved my head on Good Friday. I donated my hair to Pantene's program and raised almost $4,000 for St. Baldrick's Foundation. I wore my wig to the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. My sisters and their kids came to visit over their (and my) Spring Break, and we had a great time. 

Last Thursday, I saw my radiation oncologist for my followup appointment. It was so weird to be back there. For two months, I hurried there after work, talked with the staff while waiting for my treatment, showed pictures of Finn if he wasn't with me, handed him off to whichever staff member had volunteered to play with him while I got my boob zapped if he was. For two months, I was deeply involved with the staff there. It was my routine; it was part of my life. And then, with a burnt, peeling, painful boob and the ringing of the radiation bell, it was over. I brought in some peanut brittle and a Christmas card, and that was it. Life went back to...well, I'm not sure there is a normal yet. 

Friday, Good Friday, my mother was admitted to the hospital for chest pains and a suspected heart attack. Just this morning, we learned there was no blockage, and they suspect the episode was related to her blood pressure, which she's had difficulty controlling over the last month. We're grateful, so, so grateful that she is okay. She is going home this afternoon. 

Saturday, I went to the Easter Vigil. Kevin stayed home with Finn, as the time overlapped with Finn's bedtime and Kevin was not feeling well. I needed to go. I needed that touchpoint, that connection, that peace and comfort and solace that comes from the celebration. I had said to Kevin earlier in the afternoon that it didn't really feel like Easter. We were out of town on Palm Sunday, and the 7pm start times for services on Holy Thursday and Good Friday were just too difficult with the baby. It was weird for me to not have those moments. I missed them. And then on Saturday night, we gathered in the beautiful sanctuary at First and St. Steven's UCC, and we had an amazing service. We started in the courtyard with the new fire, the new light. We lit the Easter Candle, we sang the Gloria I love so much, the Sing Glory to God one that takes me back to my days at Western Carolina. We praised, we read from the Hebrew Testament, heard phenomenal reflections, read from the Christian Testament, heard more reflections. We sang Alleluia for the first time in over 40 days. I proclaimed the Gospel; David, bishop and pastor, nailed the homily once again. We broke bread, remembering why we do so, remembering that it is only by being broken that the bread gives us life that makes us whole. We shared peace. We shared peace. We shared peace.

Sunday we celebrated Finn's first Easter with treats from the Easter Bunny, which included new toys to match his development, shoes as he gets ready to start walking, and several books. Kevin and I each got some excellent socks, a couple of games (Joking Hazard for me, Catan card game for Kevin), and a few other treats and candy. We spent the afternoon at Kevin's aunt and uncle's house with lots of family, food, and Easter activities. For the past several years, we've had an adult Easter Egg Hunt, where the prizes are booze and scratch off lottery tickets, and the like. This year, with three young ones in the family, we also had a kids' hunt, though Finn and I napped through it, since he skipped his afternoon nap. The other family tradition is the Schenning Egg Picking Contest. It is a big deal. I'd never heard of egg picking before meeting Kevin, nor have most people, even other Baltimoreans. Wikipedia talks about it here, and the Baltimore Sun wrote about its Baltimore roots a few years ago.  Holy smokes. It was more than a few years ago. 1993 was 24 years ago. How is that possible? Anyway, at my first egg picking, I came in second place, losing to Kevin's dad in the final round. This year, I was knocked out in the first round, despite our efforts to boil hardier eggs using the Instant Pot rather than the stovetop (Kevin and Finn both lost in the first round as well. At least those eggs are easier to peel.)

At this time of year, that time which for me is so full of joy and hope but also and fear and sorrow, it has been a week of shared peace. We are an Easter people, and even at the grave, Alleluia is our song. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Hope 4-2

Today is April 2, known as Hope For Two Day, celebrating women who were diagnosed with cancer during pregnancy. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer when I was 22 weeks pregnant. I had found a lump a couple weeks before that. 

Despite the incredible support I found in family, friends, medical providers, and strangers, it was in many ways a very isolating experience. I have since found I am not alone. I knew there were other women diagnosed while pregnant, but I'd never even heard of another, much less met another. 

In January, I finally went to a meeting of a support group that I'd known about for a while but hadn't ever been to. There, I met another woman who was pregnant and underwent treatment for her cancer. Her child is now about 4 months old. She told me about and added me to a Facebook group for women diagnosed while pregnant or breastfeeding. I have come to love the support of the group and the women in it. There are a couple hundred of us, all different cancers. Some are recently diagnosed; some are many years post treatment. Some are living with metastatic disease. That scares the shit out of me. 

Knowing I'm not alone has been a confusing and powerful experience. It's comforting to know I'm not alone. It's really crappy to know I'm not alone, that other women and their babies have had to go through this as well. Right after I joined the group, someone put together a video of women sharing their stories. I waited until Kevin was with me to watch it, because I knew I would have all of the feels. I cried throughout. So many women. So much strength. So much love. So many uplifting stories. Watch the video here.

Yesterday Kevin and I went to the Breast Cancer Survivorship Conference hosted by Hopkins. We went last year as well, and it was as excellent this year as before. We had lunch at a table with two women who were diagnosed last year, also while pregnant. One was the woman who added me to the Facebook group, and the other is someone I've been Facebook friends with for a while but hadn't met yet. Her child is almost the same age as Finn. The three of us were all diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant; we were all pregnant at the same time; we all live in the Baltimore area. It's kind of...bizarre. I'm having trouble figuring out how to describe all the feelings it gives me. 










Blerg. I wish I could figure out how to format pictures the way I want to on this site. It drives me batty. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

All the Feels

So this is a post I've thought about writing for a while but never got around to it. It's about feelings...appropriate for a social worker/therapist, yes?

I put on a good face most of the time. I project a positive attitude about my circumstances. Most of the time, it's a true portrayal.

I want to be a bit more upfront. I want to talk a bit about the downside of cancer, about being pregnant and getting the diagnosis, about the toll it has taken on my mental health. I don't think we talk about it enough.

First, I want to say that I try really hard to keep a positive outlook because it's critical to my well-being, both physical and mental. I also often find it easier to be more positive because I have so many amazing people in my life, and you all make it much easier to cope. Kevin is the most supportive and loving person I could ever ask for, and our incredibly amazing and healthy little boy gives me all the encouragement I need to keep going.

But there are days when the monsters creep in. I'm not talking about The Monster, my adorable snuggly puppy dog. I'm talking about the depression and the anxiety monsters. Depression is no stranger to me. But around August, I really started noticing the anxiety. It was new to me, at least the intensity of it was, as was its presence without my usual depression symptoms. At first, I thought it was just normal new-mom stuff. I'd zoom in on the video monitor every time I woke up during the night to check that Finn was still breathing, and if I couldn't tell, I'd go into his room and make sure. I couldn't stop imagining scenarios, horrible scenarios, where something happened to him, or something happened to Kevin, or something happened to me. I kept fearing my cancer would return (it wasn't even gone at this point), and I'd imagine Finn growing up without his mother.

I felt on edge; it was difficult to stay still. I had physical symptoms as well. I'd get a pit in my stomach that wouldn't go away. My chest would feel tight.

It didn't get better. It got worse.

Finally, I called the cancer center and asked to talk with the social worker. I met with her a couple of times, and she referred me to a psychiatrist who works with the Breast Center. I didn't want to take medication. I figured that if I just talked with a therapist for a while, started processing through all I'd been going through in the past six or seven months, it might be enough.

But after a couple of sessions, I decided that I'd go ahead and talk with the psychiatrist. If the therapy wasn't enough (which seemed relatively likely, given my history) and I ended up needing to go on medication anyway, it would be another six or so weeks until the medication would start working. I didn't want to have to deal with that. The anxiety was interfering with my daily life, and I needed some changes.

I met with the psychiatrist, who was shocked I wasn't taking something already, especially something to quell intense periods of anxiety. She said she rarely prescribes those to patients from the breast center, because they've usually been prescribed it already by the oncologist. I assume I wasn't even offered it because I was pregnant, but I also did really well for all of my pregnancy, and even several weeks after.

So she gave me a prescription for Ativan and another for Lexapro. She suggested I take an Ativan before I needed it, to get an idea of how I'd respond to it. I took it on an evening when I didn't have anything to do and when Kevin would be around should the baby need anything. I didn't really notice any difference, but I did sleep pretty well that night.

A day or two later was my radiation simulation. I knew from talking to others that I'd be exposed from the waist up for a couple of hours. I knew it would be hard for me, especially when they said Kevin wouldn't be able to be there for all of it, so I took an Ativan. It helped a lot, and after my second or third radiation treatment, I didn't need it anymore.

The Lexapro has helped immensely. I'm feeling more stable, and I'm much better able to reality check myself when I start going goofy.

There are still rough days. When I found the lump (that ended up just being scar tissue), I was definitely glad for the Ativan. I've used it a few other times, when life just gets overwhelming, and it helps me to find calm.

People like to hear positive stories, positive experiences. Cancer sucks. I try to be positive. I try to be uplifting. It usually works, and I can keep a sense of humor about it. But really, it just fucking sucks. And I'm grateful for the psychiatric help.